Sunday, March 19, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 6

This week's question is:
In childhood, did you share a bedroom with siblings or have a room to yourself? What kinds of things did you collect and display in your own little corner of the world?

From the time that I was born I shared sleeping quarters with my older sister, with my two older brothers also rooming together. When I was first born I slept in a dresser drawer as my brother Joe, who was only 16 months old at the time, occupied the baby bed. We moved to Chicago when I was only a few months old, and I shared a couch with my sister until my dad was able to refinish the upstairs of our new house into two bedrooms. By then, Joe was old enough for a bed and I got the crib.

Des Moines house
At the age of 5 we moved to Des Moines, and my sister and I had a double bed in the middle bedroom of the three bedroom ranch-style home. There was little room to have a collection of any kind. I loved books, but weekly trips to the library satisfied my need to read, and there wasn't extra money to spend purchasing books at any rate.

My sister got married and moved to Florida when I was 13, so I finally had a room to myself. At that point, I built myself a desk out of a sheet of plywood and two peach crates. I painted the wood, covered the crates with contact paper, and then made some curtains to hang on the front of the crates. It was in the peach crates that I began to store my growing record collection.

My first job at 12 or so was baby-sitting in my neighborhood, and with the money I earned I would buy 45's or albums if most of the songs appealed to me. My parents gave me a record player one year for Christmas, and I was able to listen to music in my room without my dad complaining about what I was playing. I used to tease him in later years that the music he complained about - the Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, the Bee Gees - were now the artists he was listening to in elevators. Ha!

In retrospect, I really didn't mind sharing a room with my sister, and I missed her desperately when she moved away. I'm positive that I had a better college experience with roommates because I had been used to sharing space most of my life. It helps in marriage, too!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 5

As I mentioned earlier, I skipped the 52 Stories project in February as I was writing every day for the Family History Writing Challenge. As that extended a bit into March, I am just now getting back to 52 Stories.  Maybe I should rename mine the 47 Stories - ha!

This story concerns vacations:
What was the biggest, most exotic vacation you took with your family when you were a child? What memories stand out?

First of all, our family was not wealthy. I'm not even sure if we would have been considered lower middle class. My dad and mom struggled for years to pay off the expenses incurred when their first-born child, Roy, was born prematurely in 1942. Dad told me that before my mom was even released from the Catholic hospital, the nuns were already hounding him about how he was going to pay the bills. They arranged a monthly payment plan that took him years to pay off. The bills escalated when Roy was diagnosed at the age of 3 with aplastic anemia. While that took his life at the age of 7, dad continued to make payments on all the medical bills long after Roy was gone.

Vacations were a luxury our family could ill afford. We made trips from our home in Chicago and later Des Moines back to Cincinnati to visit relatives, and once in a while visited a nearby lake for a week's relaxation. So it was a complete surprise when my dad announced that we were taking a vacation to the Smoky Mountains in the fall of 1965, made even more surreal by the fact that they were pulling my brother Joe and me out of elementary school for a week. That was simply not done, and yet we did it.

Dad's Dairy Queen
Looking back on it, the trip was made possible because my dad had purchased a Dairy Queen in late 1964 or early 1965. This was during the time period that Dairy Queen pretty much only served ice cream treats. They did not have grills and fryers like they do today, but my dad offered loose meat sandwiches for sale. The whole family was put to work, with the older siblings working out front and Joe and me chopping onions and folding boxes in the back. Unfortunately that spring and summer were unusually cool and rainy in Des Moines, and people did not buy ice cream as expected. If it were not for the local business workers coming over to buy sandwiches, the Dairy Queen would not have survived the summer. By the fall, dad had enough and sold the business, thus the reason he had the time and resources to take his family on a trip.

View Master
We were not on the road very long before we came to the realization that all the fishing equipment had been left behind, as well as dad's camera! How were we going to document this trip? The thought of being on vacation and not having a camera nearly brings me to tears when I think of it. My camera is such a part of who I am, and my pictures help me to chronicle my journeys. Our fall back position was purchasing post cards and a View Master, which I still have packed away somewhere. While I would love to be able to open up one of mom's photo albums and see our trip outlined in chronological order, at least these other souvenirs help jog my memory about where we traveled. But how sad not to have any family photos from the trip.

My brother remembers traveling as far as Indiana and spending the night in a motel. He said the next day we stopped in Cincinnati for a quick visit before continuing on our way. The drive would have taken us through Kentucky, Tennessee and perhaps North Carolina. All of my recollections involve the area near Chattanooga, Tennessee. I remember walking the Swing-A-Long Bridge and being frightened when my dad made it swing as this suspension bridge spans 180 feet. At Lookout Mountain we walked to Lover's Leap and could see 7 states. And I vividly remember the Fairyland Caverns, where scenes from different fairy tales that were created by Atlanta sculptor Jessie Sanders could be viewed.

As I don't have the best recall in the world, I think the reason that this trip stands out so much for me, besides the fact that I got to miss a week of school, is that it was the first time just the four of us traveled, leaving my two older siblings at home as they were out of high school by then. Add on the fact that we actually went somewhere besides seeing family, and it made a lasting impression on me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Küblers to America

Büsserach, Switzerland
Thus ends the chronicle of my branch of the Kübler family from Büsserach, Switzerland to America. I've traveled to Büsserach and walked the villages, inhaled the mountain air and seen the beautiful  countryside through my own eyes. I've met some of the descendants of Vinzenz Joseph Kübler's siblings and other extended family. I even slept in the building where Vinzenz made the exchange of money for his land so that he could come to America with his family. Despite all that, I cannot conceive of what it must have felt like to take a last look at everyone and everything you have ever known and loved and say a final good-bye. How tough was his life that he would risk everything to take an arduous one way trip on a sailing vessel with his young family to an unknown country and an unknown future?

I never had the opportunity to know him, of course, as this was long before I was born. I barely knew my grandfather, Joseph Kubler. Although I was 13 when he died, traveling from Des Moines to Cincinnati in the 1960s was not an easy trip due to the lack of interstates. Busy, two-lane highways meant the drive was long and often slow, so visits back "home" were limited to once a year at best. Our family always stayed with my mom's parents, never at the Kubler house. We would go over to see Grandma and Grandpa Kubler when we were in town, however. They were nice to me, but I could sense the closer relationship that the cousins who lived in Cincinnati had with them. I always felt a bit like an outsider.

My memories of Grandma Kubler are much clearer, as I was 23 when she passed. She was kind and friendly, and a great cook. It was always a treat to be able to have a meal with her. It seemed like she was always in the kitchen when we visited. I'm grateful for her cooking skills as she passed them along to my dad. Though my mom was always the cook in our family during the week, on the weekends my dad nearly always helped out in the kitchen. Once he retired, cooking and cleaning were activities he shared with my mom.

Like most young people, I never sat down with my grandparents to get their stories. By the time I got interested in genealogy, following the death of my mother, all my grandparents were gone. I have tried to make up for that by talking with my older relatives each time I go to Cincinnati for a visit, and by participating in the Family History Writing Challenge so that I get the information placed somewhere besides my genealogy software. I have a long way to go, but at least I am taking steps to get there.

Dad and me circa 1958
I forgot to include in the last post the poem I wrote for my dad when he died, so it appears below. This is a scan of the original I placed beside his casket in the funeral home, somewhat wavy from the tears and snowstorm it was carried through. I have written poetry since early childhood, but I don't share it very often. I wrote a poem for Aunt Marie (my mother's sister) for her funeral, and another for my sister-in-law Lynn to express my feelings and hopefully console my brother, Joseph. So it seemed fitting to put my thoughts on paper for my dad. He was not always an easy man to be around, but I never doubted his love for me. It's an odd feeling when your second parent dies, as if you are now an orphan. The two people who were responsible for your very existence, and the anchor for your entire family are no longer a phone call or relatively short drive away. Pieces of my heart were buried with each one of them, but I am extremely happy that I have the photographs and memories to tuck away in those empty spaces.

Dad's Poem


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Family History Writing Challenge Day 29

Note: Technically the writing challenge was for 28 days, but I haven't finished the story yet so I will be continuing. It seemed simplest to keep the same name for this blog post.

After three weeks in the hospital following his car accident, Roy was ready to be released. Numerous options were discussed for how to transport him, and where he should be taken to recuperate. In the end, Kimberly and James rented an RV in St. Louis and drove it to Hays. That way Roy would be able to lie flat on the bed to protect his broken bones. When they arrived to pick Roy up, they found his room filled with a dozen people who wanted to tell their patient good-bye and wish him well. Some homemade cookies and other treats were sent along with him as well.

Roy spent a month at the Wolterman's home, with Kimberly coming home every day at noon to make him lunch. Her boss, Dr. Richard Bradley, stopped by the house to check on Roy and made a referral for an orthopedist for follow-up X-rays. Roy's strength eventually came back, and he began to put back on some of the 40 pounds he had lost in the hospital. He was soon doing laps inside the house in an effort to get stronger, and worked up to walking 2 miles per day. In good weather Kimberly would take him to the high school track to walk for longer periods on a level surface.

He received over 100 get well and sympathy cards while he was in St. Louis. He talked a lot about the accident, and as expected blamed himself for Catherine's death. He carried a lot of guilt with him the rest of his life. His grandson Andrew was a source of joy and distraction for him. Every day when Andrew came home from preschool he would ask his grandpa how he was feeling. They spent a lot of time watching t.v. together.

When Roy was finally able to travel, Kimberly, Andrew and Chris Lane drove him back to Cincinnati, and they stayed with him for the first week. Kathleen then came to Cincinnati for the second week, and Joseph for the third week. By then, Roy felt he was well enough to be on his own.

Ultimately he returned to his volunteer activities and directing the senior chorale group. He joined a fitness center, and every Monday-Friday he and his life-long friend Max Schoener would work out for an hour. He lived a full and active life, with his children coming to town to visit when they could, particularly when he planned family reunions. The children surprised him with a party on his 80th birthday, and he was thrilled!
Roy with his children; with his grandchildren; and his great-grandchildren

During a routing eye exam in 2000, Roy's ophthalmologist noticed something in his eyes that didn't seem right. He told Roy that the whites of his eyes were somewhat yellow, and that he should go to his primary care doctor and have it checked out. Roy did, and before he knew it he was having a bone marrow biopsy done. The results were not good. Roy had multiple myeloma, a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells. Plasma cells are mostly found in the bone marrow. Virtually incurable, the prognosis is 3-5 years life expectancy. Roy, in typical form, told the doctor, "At my age if I get 3-5 more years I'll be doing good."

Side effects of the disease are low blood counts, anemia, fatigue and the inability to fight infection. It is interesting that all of these things also affected his son LeRoy once he contracted aplastic anemia. Roy was told that most likely it would not be the myeloma that would kills him but rather an infection. He was warned to keep away from crowds where the likelihood of contracting germs would be greater. Unfortunately, that meant he had to stop doing all the things he loved outside the home. His life became a series of doctors' visits, trips to receive transfusions, and short jaunts to the grocery store.

For the first year of his disease he lived on his own, and then his daughter Kathleen moved in with him for a couple of years. He spent the last 10 months alone by his choice, with hospice coming to the house in December of 2003. Kimberly had driven over to meet with the hospice coordinator, and also a real estate agent so that Roy could discuss putting his house on the market. It was decided to list the house once Roy passed.

Roy Kubler
By the end of that month he entered an in-patient hospice floor at a local hospital. That is where he remained until he died on 21 January 2004. He was 86 years old, and had lived 4 years with the multiple myeloma. The day of his funeral, January 25th, began with rain which turned to sleet and finally snow. Many friends and family were not able to attend the funeral due to the weather. Catherine's sister Margie arrived via snowplow! The snow did not, however, prevent the Air Force from honoring their commitment to provide Roy with the Military Funeral Honors to which he was entitled as a veteran. The honor guard had to drive 50 miles from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton to Cincinnati in the dreadful weather. It was a moving ceremony, and fitting for a man who was proud of his service to his country.

And when it was all over, Roy was once again able to lie beside his beloved Catherine.





Saturday, March 4, 2017

Family History Writing Challenge Day 28

Kubler's Dairy Queen
Roy continued to work for the trucking company in Des Moines for about a decade, but his constant travel and entertainment commitments took their toll on the family. Eventually he quit and tried other pursuits, including selling record-a-phones (early answering machines for businesses), Airstream Motorhomes (until his business partner took off with the model they had purchased and left Roy with the payments on it), and owning a Dairy Queen for a brief period. He then settled into selling commercial real estate for a few years, and his last position of employment was as the manager of a store selling parts and supplies for motorhomes and campers.

Oldest daughter Kathleen married Joseph Lane in 1968. They have three children: Julie, Joseph and Christopher. Julie married Ralph Maness in 1991, and they have two daughters: Molly and Cordelia. Joseph married Susan Sheets, and Christopher is unmarried.

Kenneth married Virginia Staley in 1969, and their children are Todd and Sara. Virginia died of complications from an aneurysm in 2015. Sara married Jonathan Wendt in 2006, and their children are Leo, Owen and Hazel.

Kimberly married James Wolterman in 1978. They have two children: Andrew and Kathryn. Andrew married Megan Englert in 2008.

Joseph married Lynn Graber in 1990 and their children are David, Stephanie and Rebecca. Lynn died of pancreatic cancer in 2002. Joseph remarried in 2010. David passed in 2013. Stephanie has two children: Arabella and Killian.

Kubler home in Cincinnati
Roy retired in 1984, and he and Catherine sold their house in Des Moines and moved back to their hometown of Cincinnati. They immediately began reconnecting with relatives and friends, and became extremely active in the local senior citizens center. They both enjoyed the card games and dances, Catherine loved the crafts room, and Roy became the director of the chorale group, which Catherine also participated in.

In the summer of 1989, they traveled out to Colorado to visit their son, Joseph. They stopped in St. Louis and stayed a couple of days with Kimberly and James, and also got to see Kathleen and her family as they lived in the area as well. They spent a couple of weeks enjoying the scenery in Colorado and were on their way home on July 18th. In the middle of Kansas on Interstate 70, Roy fell asleep at the wheel of the car. They had stopped for a potty break in the afternoon, and neither one of them put their seat belt back on when they reentered the car. Driving off onto the shoulder of the road, Roy awoke and over-corrected his steering. The car went off the road, flipping a couple of times. Catherine was killed instantly, and Roy was severely injured. The car behind them happened to contain a couple of off-duty paramedics, who immediately stopped to offer assistance and dialed 9-1-1. Roy was able to give them Joseph's phone number from memory, and he is the one who received the first call about the accident.

Roy was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Hays, Kansas. He suffered from a broken collar bone, all the ribs on one side were fractured, and he had internal bleeding. Joseph, in the meantime, faced the unpleasant task of notifying his siblings. He left a message on the answering machine at Kenneth's house and called Kathleen at work. She told him that she would call Kimberly at home that night after she knew her sister was done with work and had picked up her son Andrew at his baby-sitter's home. Kathleen was so distraught that someone drove her home from the office.

Joseph then had a friend drive with him from Colorado Springs to Hays, and Kathleen and Kimberly drove there together from St. Louis the next morning. Once they assessed their dad's situation and realized he would be in the hospital for quite a while, it was determined that Kathleen would fly to Cincinnati to begin making funeral arrangements for Catherine. In the meantime Kathleen's husband Joe would drive to Kansas and stay with Roy while everyone else made their way to Cincinnati for the funeral.

Catherine's obituary
Catherine's body was shipped by train to Cincinnati. It was very difficult for the children to plan their mother's funeral, especially knowing that their dad would not be able to attend it. They also did not know all of his wishes for the funeral, though he and Catherine had purchased a burial plan so that helped with some of the decision-making. The funeral was well attended by family and friends as Catherine was well-loved in the community. Men from the senior chorale group, dressed in their performance best, escorted the casket into the church while singing, "When Irish Eyes are Smiling." There was not a dry eye in St. Dominic's Church.

One thing that Roy made clear from his hospital bed was that he did not want anything personal of Catherine's to be in the house when he returned home to Cincinnati. He told Kathleen and Kimberly to pack everything up and have a yard sale in St. Louis. It was a very difficult thing to ask of two grieving daughters, but they reluctantly complied with his wishes, bringing Catherine's personal belongings back home with them after the funeral.

The beloved matriarch was dead at the age of 69. The foundation of the family shifted, and the children were numb.